Business

To keep boredom at bay, more Japanese retirees are starting up their own business

Kyodo

An increasing number of newly retired people are starting up businesses, using their wealth of experience and knowledge while taking advantage of government loan programs.

A cafe run by Yoshiaki Sato, 65, in a housing complex in the Wakaba area in Tachikawa in west Tokyo is kept busy serving local seniors as well as young people. The cafe, called Tekutaku, opened seven years ago.

“After retirement, I was more excited to do this than sitting around being bored,” Sato said in a recent interview.

He worked as a chef at Ueno Seiyoken, a well-established restaurant in Koto Ward, Tokyo, for 12 years and then started an aquafarming business in an unsuccessful attempt to get rich quick.

After laboring in some other jobs, such as managing a restaurant chain, he began a monthly meal service for senior residents in the housing complex, serving “one-coin” dishes for ¥500 each. It was a hit, as many residents gathered to enjoy his cooking.

Sato started Tekutaku when he was 57 to provide meals to residents every day. Attracted by his friendly nature and family-style cooking, both old and young started patronizing the cafe.

To launch the business, Sato turned to a loan program set up by the Tachikawa Municipal Government for people aged 55 and above. With the city paying more than half of the interest on loans under the program, Sato said, “I didn’t have enough money on hand and couldn’t have started the restaurant without the system.”

Sato offers a variety of meals using the popular Koshihikari brand of rice from Uonuma, Niigata Prefecture, where he was born, and locally grown Tachikawa vegetables.

“I want to continue the business until I’m 70,” he said.

In Chigasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, Masaru Yasuda, 64, started a business when he was 61 to assist dog lovers.

He made use of the Small and Medium Enterprise Agency’s subsidiary program to support the launch of new businesses which, in principle, requires no repayment of funding.

Yasuda used a notary public license he obtained as a company employee to begin the service, which involves concluding trust contracts with clients.

He is entrusted by dog owners, once they become too old to do so themselves, with the money needed to ensure the animal’s care and upkeep.

“I always thought of working after retirement,” Yasuda said. But the first 18 months was a “long tunnel” of attempting different ways to secure customers, such as trying to boost his name recognition with a website and conducting seminars on trust services at a dog cafe.

As a company employee, Yasuda was involved in sales advertisements and arranging exhibitions for model homes.

“My experience became my biggest asset,” he said.

According to the Research Institute of Japan Finance Corp., which is wholly owned by the government, the average age of people who started new businesses in 2018 was 43.3. It was the sixth consecutive year the figure has risen and the highest since 1991, when the institute started running surveys on this topic. The proportion of people older than 50 rose to 26.3 percent last year.

The research also showed that 68.4 percent of those starting businesses were able to do so with less than ¥10 million.

“We see more startups that involve life fulfillment goals of people who want to make use of their interests or skills. A lot don’t require large equipment costs. Because of the internet and the growing popularity of shared office space, fewer things are needed to start a new business,” said an official of the research institute.

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